A Danish MP who appeared to label traditional Māori customs “grotesque” has now claimed her words were lost in translation.

Marie Krarup is a member of the Danish People’s Party and was visiting New Zealand as part of a defence delegation. Following her stay in the country, she wrote a blog for Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, in which she described her reaction to the traditional Māori welcome she received.

Ms Krarup allegedly said she was greeted by a “half-naked man in a grass skirt” who shouted in Māori and stuck his tongue out at the guests. The Naval officers they were meeting at the Te Taua Moana Mara then joined in speaking in “broken Māori” and playing a song she described as sounding like “Ladybird is always happy”. Once the ritual was over, she and the other guests greeted the officers with a traditional hongi, which is the Māori custom of pressing your nose and forehead against the person you are greeting while looking into their eyes. Ms Krarup stated on her blog that she was relieved when one of the men she was meeting kissed her cheek instead.

After the ritual was over, the politician appeared to suggest they were able to have a “civilised visit”, although she claimed the Māori holy building they saw was decorated with carvings of erect penises and angry gods and she didn’t understand how the naval officers could put up with it.

Unsurprisingly, Ms Krarup’s comments caused a backlash. The ritual she was describing was actually a pōwhiri – a Māori tradition often reserved to greet special guests. More to the point, since her blog post was published claims have arisen that the MP was briefed beforehand and knew what to expect from the ritual.

Danish ambassador to the country Borge Petersen told the New Zealand Herald that he briefed Ms Krarup about what to expect before she attended the ceremony. He claimed the MP was provided with a write-up of the pōwhiri and what it stood for and that the Navy had also sent them both background research on it beforehand, which she had the opportunity to read. Ms Krarup has since confirmed she was briefed prior to attending the pōwhiri.

Mr Petersen noted that he has been greeted in that way several times when visiting New Zealand and that he understands the ceremony’s history and tradition. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Commander Vicki Rendall told the newspaper that it is common practice for any guest who looks uncomfortable with the ceremony to be taken aside in case they didn’t understand what it meant, but that the feedback had all been positive.

Ms Krarup now says her comments were lost in translation. She told TVNZ’s Breakfast show: “I spoke to a New Zealand journalist this morning who speaks both English and Danish and he told me that the reason why people have been so offended is because it has not been correctly translated in the first place.”

Despite saying her comments were lost in translation, the MP also apologised to those who were offended. However, she continued to distance herself, claiming that the first English-language translations were “very offending” but that she had not done them.

In an attempt to defend her comments, Ms Krarup said that when compared to Western civilisation, “dancing and screaming like the Māori culture dance is kind of grotesque”. She added that she would not feel offended if a Danish custom was similarly-labelled and stated she was “sure” a Māori person would find Denmark “completely grotesque”, the New Zealand Herald reports.

Mr Petersen said Ms Krarup’s comments do not reflect the opinions of the Danish government.